A framework to ensure that content creation is customer-centric
30 second summary:
- Companies need to stop making claims about themselves if they want any chance of getting audiences to engage with their content
- Impactful content is content that adds value to the audience experience, tied to business capabilities
- PAVE is a content creation framework that aims to achieve that impact and focus on the right efforts. Remember to use it before commissioning parts
- The four elements of PAVE are purpose (what does the company get out of this coin?), audience (who is it for?), value (what does the audience get out of this piece) and execution (how are you going to make it work?)
It’s common for brands, like people, to want to talk about themselves. We’ve all met fascinating people in our lives, but we’ve all also met the kind of person who doesn’t know where to draw a line and still doesn’t care about your staring eyes!
In life, as much as on LinkedIn (or Facebook, Twitter, etc.), people and brands that gossip about themselves become annoying and best avoided, sooner rather than later. These brands need to change their approach to stop talking about themselves and start focusing on creating content that has impact and brings value to the customer.
I can’t tell you what content you should create. It’s your audience. However, I can provide you with a simple framework that you should follow before creating content to ensure that it is useful and adds value to your audience. PAVE (Purpose, Value, Audience, Execution) is a planning exercise to ensure your content moves with your audience.
A tool to stay focused
I don’t claim to know everything about content strategies. It would be foolish to ignore that different companies offering different products and solving different problems will have their own mix of content, fitting into their unique strategy.
However, I maintain the principle of staying well clear of your own navels. Instead, invest in all areas that add value to your audience’s experience and connect them to your own abilities.
This is the essence of meaningful and impactful content. Content that moves the needle. But how can we, as digital marketing leaders, make sure we don’t drift away and stay focused? How to avoid slipping into a world of declarations and complacency?
PAVE before doing
Before commissioning a story, video, infographic, or even a social media post, marketers responsible for creating content should address the four elements of PAVE, in this order:
What are you going to take away from the coin as a business? Why is it worth investing time and money in it? What do you want the person on the other end of your story to know, think, feel about you?
To answer these questions, you need to place the desired outcome at the beginning of the process and always keep it in the frame. In some cases, you may be looking for a “halo effect,” where you want to leave a positive impression on the overall consumer perception of your brand or purpose. Ask yourself what “halo” do we want to leave the person who has consumed the content? In others, you may be considering moving them down the funnel. In this case, ask yourself at what point in the journey do we want the consumer to end? These questions keep your content anchored to business goals – rather than letting you wander off on a haphazard path. Or even vanity: remember, never curate content for itself (or yours).
Who are you talking to? Who do you plan to engage with?
The importance of researching, understanding and characterizing this group of people, by all means at your disposal, cannot be underestimated. Although it can be a costly exercise if you are starting from scratch, the value of personas is important. Building them is a worthwhile exercise in setting the stage for your content creation.
You can do this on a large or small scale, depending on the nature of your challenge and your resources. There are countless techniques you can use to create characters, using everything from surveys on your website fieldwork and focus groups.
My personal recommendation is to use whatever you can. Even talking to a few people in your key audience is better than browsing blindly (but obviously be aware of the limitations). Your audience is made up of people. They don’t bite. Most.
This is where the focus shifts to the person on the other end. What value does this audience get from this content?
When thinking about how to add value to your audience, a fantastic example is the BBC. The now well-known wheel of needs talks about six possible ways in which you can approach a piece: inspire, amuse, educate, put into perspective, update or follow the trend.
It’s a perfect example of challenging the storyteller to think beyond the fact that they want to communicate. This requires figuring out not just what you want to say, but how to shed light on the topic that makes it distinctive and, most importantly, gives the “consumer” a reason to engage.
Why will this audience care? This is the key question to answer before you even begin your story-gathering operation.
If you don’t, your article is destined for the trash can of content that looks cute, nice, polite, professional, expensive, cool, and any number of vanity adjectives, but no one has read/ look at. It may earn rewards, but it won’t earn customers.
Only when you have decided on the above can you consider deploying it in real content.
There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s break it down into three categories:
- What’s inside? You need to understand your revenue, rough structure and potential sources.
- What will it look like? You need to have a clear idea of the format and visuals of your content and how it will serve the value you are trying to add.
- How will he travel? You need to know which platforms you are going to use for your content and what your SEO strategy will be. This has a direct impact on formats. Have a deployment plan in place that includes timelines, deadlines, and approvals.
But it also means taking care of every aspect of your piece, from creating a top line that will keep your piece together online, to carefully pre-producing your videos. I often tell my teams not to go into the field without having a clear idea of what they will bring back. Don’t fall at the last hurdle!
It’s time to ditch self-centered content creation
You might think that this framework is common sense. Of course, it’s not about inventing the wheel. Books have been written, lessons have been taught, courses have been structured around the importance of considering all of these elements. However, while you might think brands (and people) would avoid talking about themselves all the time, sadly, that’s far from the truth. An example where this comes up frequently is when discussing strategies for attracting candidates to jobs, especially in technology fields. “Our audience doesn’t like corporate content,” I’m told time and time again.
This confused me at first, but I am now convinced that we are talking about two different things. Of course job applicants, tech or otherwise, don’t connect with companies that do statements about themselves. However, they connect with content about the industry they are in. Kantega provides a fantastic example of how to do this in their job posting to attract developers.
This is not only true for job applicants. Neither do other audiences, including hard-core, fact-driven investors. You can State what your brand values are or what your organization is all about. But is it true and authentic? And more importantly, why should anyone care?
Put these (often self-glorifying) statements aside. Once you’ve done that, whatever you create from that starting point is a world of possibilities simply guided by the nature, goals, and circumstances of the business and limited only by one’s own imagination.
Use PAVE to streamline
In a nutshell, PAVE is a thorough planning exercise. For starters, like all new frameworks, it might seem like a hassle. But be patient and stick with it. It gives you discipline; helps you focus and helps weed out ideas that won’t move the needle.
It’s a way to streamline the decision-making process around content creation and resource allocation, with a view to getting maximum impact from a cohesive team. It is the act of applying customer focus to your content. You seek to understand your customers and the journey they will take. Isn’t that the whole thing?
Yolanda Valery is Head of Digital Engagement at Ocado Group and previously worked as Social Media Manager at BBC World Service. Yolanda can be found on Twitter @yolandavalery
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